By Richard Montgomery
The MSBA Committee on Laws and the MSBA Office of Legislative and Governmental Relations were very active during 2019 Session of the Maryland General Assembly. The Laws Committee, per its mandate, reviewed bills introduced in the Maryland General Assembly and made bill position recommendations to the Board of Governors as it does every year.
Of the hundreds of bills reviewed by the MSBA, there were several important bills that the MSBA focused on during the session, which primarily impacted the Judiciary. In particular, the MSBA supported SB205 – Judgeships – Circuit Court and District Court (Passed) that added a circuit court judgeship for Washington County and District Court judgeships in various jurisdictions. Senate Bill 205 passed both chambers of the legislature, and, as of the date of this writing awaits the Governor’s signature.
Another bill that the MSBA took action upon was SB 246 – Circuit Court Judges – Elections (Failed), a Constitutional Amendment, which would have eliminated judicial elections for circuit court judges, replacing contested elections with retention elections, similar to those faced by Maryland appellate judges. While SB 246 did not pass this year, partly because it was a Constitutional Amendment, which the legislature generally does not consider in non-election years, the measure will reappear in both chambers in 2020.
Finally, MSBA opposed SB 1049 – Civil Actions – Office of Asbestos Case Mediation and Resolution (Failed) which would have mandated that all current and future asbestos cases in Baltimore City Circuit Court be sent to mediation, which would be administered by a newly created executive agency. The Laws Committee recommendation to oppose the bill, which was approved by the Board of Governors, was based on a separation of powers issues and the measure having a retroactive application that would affect asbestos-related injury claims already filed with the court. The bill failed in the waning days of the 2019 session.
Richard Montgomery is MSBA Director of Legislative and Governmental Relations.